The N.C. High School Athletic Association returned Green Hope and Panther Creek to the Tri-Nine 4A Conference before approving the 2014 alignment of its 390 member schools.
“We are so thankful for our kids. This has always been about the kids and keeping our community together,” said Wayne Bragg, the athletic director at Green Hope.
Panther Creek High and Green Hope High officials presented a 26-page appeal of the proposed conference placement to the NCHSAA board of directors on Tuesday.
But Green Hope principal Jim Hedrick simplified the appeal by saying the board needed to consider only two numbers – 1,441, the actual enrollment at East Chapel Hill High; and six, the number of schools needed to form a viable conference.
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East Chapel Hill’s enrollment was erroneously reported when the realignment process began in November and the school was moved from the 4A classification to the 3A.
The move would have dropped the current PAC Six 4A Conference to five teams, too few, according to the NCHSAA realignment committee, to be viable. The realignment committee proposed moving Green Hope and Panther Creek to join Durham Riverside, Durham Hillside, Durham Jordan, Northern Durham and Roxboro Person to form a seven-team league.
After hearing the appeals, the NCHSAA board went into executive session to make deliberations, then passed the final realignment.
“To me, this shows that the process works,” said Bobby Guthrie, the Wake County Schools senior administrator of athletics. “The board was listening. To me, keeping Green Hope and Panther Creek in the Tri-Nine made sense, but I know I was looking at everything from my perspective.”
Wake County Schools superintendent Tony Tata told the board that Green Hope and Panther Creek were two of the top performing high schools in the state based on graduation rates and he asked the board to not disturb the stability in the schools with a move to another conference.
Representatives from all of the schools in the current Tri-Nine 4A conference attended the meeting in support of keeping Green Hope and Panther Creek in the conference.
Cary High principal Doug Thilman told the board that the children at Green Hope and Panther Creek grew up with the students at the other nearby schools and had played together with them in recreation leagues.
“We are a family,” Thilman said.
Bragg said the alignment process had been a long road. Green Hope and Panther Creek had worked to stay in the Tri-Nine since seeing the earliest drafts of the realignment plans that joined them with the Durham-area schools.
“It was a winding road,” Bragg said. “But I think almost everyone will agree that it worked out the way that it should have.”
Todd Schuler, the athletic director at Panther Creek, said he would never forget how the conference rallied around the two schools and the work done by Guthrie and Tata.
“We are very appreciative,” Schuler said.
Hedrick said the key to him was what Green Hope and Panther Creek had stressed from the beginning of the appeals process.
“We are community,” he said. “People think of us as being Cary schools, but our community is much larger. To have every school in our conference be represented, to have Bobby Guthrie there, to have our superintendent there illustrates what this appeal has been about.”